Azhar Ali: Players emotional about return of Test cricket to Pakistan

The Pakistan captain admits the series was a make-or-break situation for his team as it hasn’t been playing well in Test cricket for some time

Sri Lankan captain Dimuth Karunaratne (left) and his Pakistani counterpart Azhar Ali with the trophy Rawalpindi on Tuesday.   -  AP

Pakistani players will play Test cricket at home after a gap of 10 years when they take on Sri Lanka in a two-Test series starting here on Wednesday. A 2009 terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team had led to a freeze on cricket in Pakistan, which has been playing its home matches on neutral venues.

“All the players are very emotional about this Test series. It is great to be back to our home grounds and I just hope that Test cricket returns regularly to Pakistan now,” captain Azhar Ali told a media conference.

Read | PCB: No more international cricket at neutral venues

Azhar conceded that the series was a make-or-break situation for his team as it hasn’t been playing well in Test cricket for some time now. Pakistan lost 0-2 to Australia. “It is unacceptable the way we lost in Australia. The last two series in South Africa and Australia have been tough for us. We know how important this series is. We need to turn to reverse our results and get back on the winning track as there is a lot of pride in Pakistan cricket and we need to win back the confidence of the fans,” he said.

Will the presence of former Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur in the Sri Lankan camp make a big difference to the series?

‘Ready’

“Obviously, he knows a lot about us as he had worked with us for three years. But in modern-day cricket I think nowadays everyone is updated about other teams. We had a plan for David Warner in Australia. It didn’t work. So we are ready to take up any of the challenges he (Arthur) will throw at us,” he said.

Azhar Ali made it clear that Sri Lanka would be a tough side to beat even in home conditions. “Sri Lanka has always been a tough team because they play disciplined cricket. We also have to play disciplined cricket in every department. Test cricket demands disciplined cricket. You can’t win a Test in one session but you can lose a Test in one session. So one has to be disciplined to beat Sri Lanka at home or away,” he said.

Read | Pakistan invites Australia to send team to country for Test series in 2022

“We have to rely on our bowling attack. Yasir Shah didn’t do well in Australia but he has won us many matches and I think he will return to his old self in this series. We have confidence in our attack and we are backing them,” he added.

‘Trying to get back into form’

About his own poor form, Azhar conceded that every captain had a playing role in the team and if he performed well, it would send out the right message to other players. “I am aware of the situation and I am trying to get back into form. In terms of playing, I am happy. It is just that I have been unable to transfer my innings into big scores and I am working on that,” he said.

Azhar Ali: "In terms of playing, I am happy. It is just that I have been unable to transfer my innings into big scores and I am working on that." Photo: AP

 

“If, after 10 years of top cricket I can’t handle the pressure then I shouldn’t be playing for Pakistan. I just focus now on how I can best play a role and help the team win. I want to contribute to our team winning matches,” he added.

There is a forecast of rain here on the second and third days of the match.

Azhar said one can’t say for certain how much time is required to rebuild the team. “We have never kept patience and we don’t give the rebuilding process time. I think these players have a lot of potential and they will soon come out of their comfort zone once they play under different conditions. We have to keep patience instead of calling for changes,” he asserted.